|Guest Post - Chris Smith - What Should Schools Pay For?|
Friday, May 18, 2012
Guest Post - What should a school pay for?
Pencils, papers, paper towels, tissue paper, binders, pens, glue, crayons, rulers, footballs, shoulder pads, jerseys, wrestling shoes, cheerleader uniforms, volleyballs, microscopes, and many others ‘traditional’ classroom materials and school supplies now either don’t fit on the budget or require a “fee” before students can access these item(s). School “Supply Lists” for parents are now growing into multiple page requests. In some school districts, public school students are asked to pay $795 to play a single sport. Under federal law, all students are entitled to F.A.P.E. (Free Appropriate Public Education). Is there a point where school fees get so high that F.A.P.E. isn’t being met?
As a Special Education teacher is a suburban school district, I have seen programs and services get cut and then cut again when it looks like there is no room for additional cuts to be made. I work with students that have severe behavior problems. When a student is sent to a specialized school because they are not able to access the curriculum at their current school, it can cost a school district $9,000 up to $50,000 per year, per student. Not only are tougher and tougher students being enrolled at local elementary, middle and high schools but there are less and less services and supports to meet the needs of these students.
Graduating from high school in 1996, I don’t consider myself to be out of touch with the times or an old-timer. When I graduated, our middle schools offered Metal Shop, Wood Shop, Home Economics, Art, Band, Chorus and many other electives that were meant to enrich the young learners coming into their own. Our high school sports were free to participate in. There wasn’t a limit to the number of sports one could play. My school lunch was $1.25. Today, students are asked to pay $3.50 for a lunch. This is almost triple the cost parents were asked to pay just 15 years ago. Class offerings, sports and lunch costs are just the tip of the iceberg of changes that have occurred.
School districts all across America are tying to cover the rising cost of items of necessity and still offer some enriching activities to mold young minds. Gone are the days of choices. At the school district where I am employed, the Metal and Wood Shops are closed, all Art and Physical Education classes are gone from elementary schools, bussing has been taken down to state required minimums and students pay $495 to play a single sport. If you have multiple children, in multiple sports, one could easily be looking at an invoice for a few thousand dollars to allow your children the opportunity to play a sport. If they are the All-State linebacker or if they are the JV girl’s basketball 9th person to rotate in, they still pay the $495.
To have materials and incentives for my students, I engage in a grassroots efforts to ensure that they have what they need to be successful. I continually reach out to local businesses and community resources to get materials and donations. I use coupons to stretch my personal budget on my classroom. As I am asked to purchase more and more for my classroom, I am getting nearer and nearer to looking at fundraising to close the supplies gap. This is where we, as educators, need more organizations like Believe Kids that are waiting with open arms to help us continue to provide students all of the opportunities that they should have….. and that we had when we were growing up.
Chris Smith, M.Ed, MBA
This has been a guest post by Chris Smith. Hopefully we'll hear more from Chris in another post soon but in the meantime, feel free to keep the conversation going on twitter - twitter.com/believekids or reach out to Chris directly. On a personal note, I know how hard it can be to think that the need to fundraise exists when you don't and shouldn't be in a position to need to fundraise. It's a frustrating situation to be in.
I applaud teachers that are able to realize that fundraising is not the problem, nor the solution. The reality is, something is required to close the gap in educational funding and it's the best option we have at the moment. As with any discussion of fundraising, I believe it's important to mention that LESS fundraising that is MORE EFFECTIVE is what's truly needed today. If we make fundraising important, it will bridge the gap.
On that note, Thanks Chris!
Ok, until next time!